Crawley convicted in killing, gets life
By Jesse James DeConto - NewsObserver.com
February 23, 2010
DURHAM — In a courthouse corridor swirling with
television cameras, one family celebrated justice for its dead
daughter. Another wept and cursed, helpless to rescue its daughter
from life in prison.
The man in the middle of a deadly love triangle
was nowhere to be found.
"Jermeir Stroud caused a perfect storm to
happen and walked away from it," said Superior Court Judge Ronald
Stephens, after a 12-member jury found Stroud's former mistress,
Shannon Crawley, guilty of killing his fiancee, Denita Smith.
As the prosecution told the story, and as
jurors apparently believed it, Crawley tried over and over to
frame Stroud for the murder of Smith, a graduate student at N.C.
Central University, in January 2007.
Four months after the murder, police say,
Crawley concocted a story in which Stroud forced her to Durham
then left her in her Ford Explorer as he climbed to the second
floor of Smith's apartment building, argued with her, shot her in
the back of the head, ran back to the vehicle, shoved his handgun
into his waistband, then hid in the back seat as she drove away.
A year later, authorities say, Crawley recorded
fake telephone conversations and tried to pass them off as Stroud
confessing to her. When that didn't convince investigators,
Crawley falsely accused Stroud of raping her in Charlotte a year
and a half after the murder.
In an emotional interview outside the courtroom
Monday, Crawley's father again pointed the finger at the man who
patrols the streets of Greensboro as a police officer.
"If it's the last thing I ever do, I will prove
that he is the one who committed this murder," said Keith Crawley,
who with his wife sat for two weeks behind their daughter in a
courtroom filled with loved ones seeking justice for Smith.
Hands shot up in jubilation when Stephens
announced the verdict, and heads nodded when he directed partial
blame toward Stroud, who faces no charges in the crime.
After the trial, the Greensboro officer
answered his cell phone, the same phone whose records helped to
clear him of the rape allegation. He declined to comment on the
The trial showed that Stroud made a habit of
lying about his relationship with Crawley to Smith, her family and
police. But the jury decided the evidence pointed at Crawley,
whose own lies struck closer to the heart of the case. She lied
about driving to Durham the day before the murder, about a gun she
had bought a few months earlier, about a doctor's appointment on
the morning of the murder and about whether or not she lived in
Smith's apartment complex.
If the jury is right that Stroud's taped
confessions were fake, that would be Crawley's biggest lie of all.
Crawley's attorney, Scott Holmes, tried to keep
those tapes out of evidence last week, and when the judge allowed
them, the defense attorney took them head-on, asking his client
why her voice sounds strangely calm and Stroud's voice sounds
"more like Michael Jackson." The defendant said her former lawyers
had told her to stay calm and try to get Stroud to confess if he
On Monday, Holmes called for a mistrial after
the jury asked to listen again to the tapes, even some they hadn't
heard when Assistant District Attorney David Saacks had introduced
them into evidence last week. Stephens said Crawley had had access
to the tapes for the past two years and could have addressed any
portion of them during the trial.
In an impromptu news conference after Crawley's
sentencing, her family insisted the confessions were real.
"My daughter, who is the perfect victim for
someone like Jermeir Stroud, now has to spend the rest of her life
in prison," Anne Crawley said.
As the Crawley family mourned the imprisonment
of a daughter, sister and mother of two preteens, the Smith family
felt a grim sense of justice.
Given the chance to speak to Crawley before the
sentence, Sharon Smith did not mince words.
"You took my baby away from me, and she wasn't
yours to take," said the victim's mother. "There's no man worth
anything like that. Someday, I may forgive you, but I don't. Right
now, I hope you rot in hell. You're vile."
Crawley said nothing when Stephens gave her the
Jury finds Crawley guilty
Monday, February 22, 2010
DURHAM (WTVD) -- The jury in the Shannon
Crawley trial found her guilty of first-degree murder in the 2008
shooting of NCCU graduate student Denita Smith Monday.
The judge immediately sentenced her to life in
prison without parole.
Crawley appeared stunned at the verdict. When
the judge asked if she wanted to say anything, she sat silent.
Denita Smith's parents both addressed Crawley.
"Because of what Shannon did there is a void.
You took her away from me," said Smith's mother. "Someday I may
forgive you, but right now I don't and I hope you rot in hell.
You're vile. You don't deserve to be a mother."
During the trial, Crawley maintained her
innocence, saying she did not shoot Smith and didn't even know the
The jury began deliberating Friday. On Monday,
the defense moved for a mistrial after jurors listened to phone
calls that weren't introduced into evidence.
According to the defense, that was grounds for
a retrial. The judge denied the motion. The jury continued
listening to recorded calls Monday that were allegedly made by the
victim's fiancé to Crawley.
Also Monday, jury members asked to see several
items, including video of Smith's home and pictures of Crawley's
Crawley and Smith were allegedly entangled in a
love triangle with Greensboro police officer Jermeir Stroud, who
also was Smith's fiancé.
Defense lawyers tried to pin the murder on
Stroud - who denied involvement.
Crawley testified on her behalf, telling the
court she and Stroud were in a relationship, and she was pregnant
with his child months before the murder but terminated the
She also testified that on the morning of the
murder, she accompanied Stroud to Durham and claimed that's when
Stroud shot Smith outsider her apartment.
"If the last thing I ever do, I will prove that
he is the one who actually committed that crime," Crawley's father
Keith Crawley said. "I won't rest and I won't stop until he's
where he belongs, in jail."
Crawley was a 911 operator in Greensboro at the
time of the crime.
Romantic rival convicted in NCCU student's
By Erin Hartness
February 22, 2010
Durham, N.C. — A jury on Monday found a former
Guilford Metro 911 dispatcher guilty of killing a North Carolina
Central University graduate student more than three years ago.
Jurors deliberated for about seven hours over
two days before convicting Shannon Elizabeth Crawley of
first-degree murder in the Jan. 4, 2007, shooting death of Denita
Smith, 25, was shot in the head at Campus
Crossing Apartments in Durham and then fell down a stairwell to
the sidewalk, where a maintenance man found her body, police said.
"Someday, I may forgive you, but I don't right
now," Smith's mother, Sharon Smith, told Crawley during
sentencing. "I hope you rot in hell."
Crawley, 28, made no statement before Superior
Court Judge Ronald Stephens sentenced her to life in prison
"I was thankful to God for the guilty verdict
because I was glad that Denita didn't get murdered twice," her
father, Calvain Smith, said after the trial. "In my opinion, the
evidence spoke for itself. It couldn't have been no other verdict
but a guilty verdict."
Authorities maintained that Crawley stalked
Smith in a jealous rage because she had a former relationship with
Smith's fiance, Greensboro police officer Jermeir Stroud.
Crawley contended that Stroud stalked her and
killed Smith. She said she feared Stroud and did what he said only
to protect her children from him.
She testified last week that Stroud drove her
to Durham on the morning Smith was killed. He left the SUV for
several minutes, she said, and she heard a brief argument followed
by a gunshot.
When Stroud ran back to the SUV, she said, he
began to back out before jumping into the back seat and ordering
her to drive off.
"Now, (it's) my daughter who is the perfect
victim," Anne Crawley said after the trial. "The perfect victim
for someone like Jermeir Stroud has now been convicted of a murder
that he committed."
"If it is the last thing I ever do, I will
prove that he is the one that actually committed that crime,” said
Crawley's father, Keith Crawley.
Calvain Smith said he remains angry with
Stroud, who admitted during the trial that he dated Shannon
Crawley and Denita Smith at the same time. Calvain Smith said he
doesn't think Stroud did enough to protect his daughter.
"Jermeir Stroud caused a perfect storm to
happen and then walked away from it, and that was unfortunate for
everyone in this case,” Stephens said as he sentenced Crawley.
Greensboro Police Chief Tim Bellamy said Stroud
was never a suspect in Smith's death, adding that he never heard
any allegations linking the officer to the case until Crawley's
defense brought it up in the trial.
Monday's verdict came after Stephens denied a
request by Crawley's attorney for a mistrial.
Jurors asked Monday morning to listen to
recordings of what Crawley said were phone conversations between
her and Stroud.
In one recording, a man acknowledged in a
whisper that he had killed Smith but couldn't go to prison for it.
Defense attorney Scott Holmes complained that
jurors were hearing more material on the tapes than they heard
during the trial.
"There are substantially new materials that I
did not have the opportunity to address in my closing argument,"
Holmes said. "I think it violates her Sixth Amendment right to
counsel to now have stuff played for the jury that was not put in
the state’s evidence and published to them. They had the
opportunity to publish that entire tape during the case.”
Stephens denied Holmes' motion for a mistrial
and allowed jurors to listen to the tapes. The tapes were put into
evidence in their entirety, the judge said, and the fact that only
portions were played for the jury during the trial was irrelevant.
Durham County Chief Assistant District Attorney
David Saacks told Stephens that Holmes had access to all of the
recordings "for two years" to prepare for trial.
Holmes said he plans to appeal the verdict.
Shannon Crawley testifies in
her own defense
Thursday, February 18, 2010
DURHAM (WTVD) -- Shannon Crawley took the stand at her murder
She is charged with killing
North Carolina Central University graduate student Denita Smith
three years ago.
During her testimony she
continued to point the finger, blaming Smith's fiancé for the
Crawley and Smith were involved in a
love Triangle with Jermeir Stroud. Crawely said Stroud became
controlling and erratic before the murder.
Crawley took the witness stand shortly after several witnesses
were briefly recalled. Once sworn in, she told the jury how she
met Storud, a Greensboro police officer, and how the relationship
She also said she had no idea
Stroud and Smith were in a relationship.
said she got pregnant, had an abortion and Stroud proposed to her
but she turned him down. She said Stroud started calling her
constantly, leaving her mean messages and even tried to chase her
"We drove through Greensboro
for at least 30, 45 minutes," Crawley testified. "He was right
behind me, calling me nonstop, beeping the horn, running lights
trying to keep up with me. When I got home and came down the
driveway, I looked in the mirror and he was right behind my car
Crawley maintains Stroud took her to
Durham, killed Smith and hid in her car. The prosecution argues
Crawley killed Smith out of jealousy.
also heard a number of recorded phone conversations Crawley claims
were between her and Stroud.
Crawley: No, you
know I didn't do anything, you need to tell the truth.
Caller: Baby, I ain't going to jail.
Crawley: And I'm supposed to for something I didn't do?
Crawley: You're gonna kill me, too?
Caller: You keep talking, you know I will.
Stroud denies it's him in the calls.
Jury watches Crawley
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
DURHAM (WTVD) -- Jurors in a high-profile Durham murder case heard
from the defendant Wednesday.
They watched taped
interview footage of Shannon Crawley as she talked to
investigators following the murder of Denita Smith.
Crawley is accused of killing Smith, a North Carolina Central
University graduate student, three years ago.
Prosecutors believe a love Triangle was the motive and that the
women were involved with the same man.
heard from Crawley through a video of her interrogation by an
investigator, which was shot a few months after the murder.
In the taped interview, Crawley said her former boyfriend and
Greensboro police officer, Jermeir Stroud, came to her house the
day before the murder to talk. She said he was upset about their
relationship and asked her to take a ride with him. They ended up
going to Durham.
The lead investigator took the
stand briefly before playing the video from Crawley's second
interview in May 2007. During that interview, she told police she
and Stroud went to Durham. The next day she said Stroud threatened
her children if she didn't go with him again.
The defendant said she didn't know she was going to Durham and she
didn't know the murder victim.
Once they arrived
at Campus Crossing Apartments where Smith lived, Crawley said
Stroud argued with someone and then she heard a gunshot.
"Seconds later, he was running out passed me from the breezeway,"
she said during the taped interview. "I never saw him go down the
stairs, but he came to the breezeway towards me and shoved the gun
down his waist. I asked him what happened. He yelled at me to get
in the car."
Crawley's attorney claims Stroud
killed his fiancé, but prosecutors say it was a jealous Crawley
who pulled the trigger.
Suspect in NCCU student's death says she
feared for her children
By Erin Hartness -
February 17, 2010
Durham, N.C. — The woman accused of killing a North Carolina
Central University graduate student more than three years ago told
police that her former boyfriend pulled the trigger and threatened
her children if she didn't accompany him.
Prosecutors played a videotape of a May 2007 police interview of
Shannon Elizabeth Crawley as they wrapped up their case against
Crawley, 28, of Greensboro, is charged with
murder in the Jan. 4, 2007, death of Denita Monique Smith.
The defense is expected to start presenting its case Thursday.
Smith, 25, was shot once in the back of the head and fell down a
stairwell at Campus Crossing Apartments in Durham, police said. A
maintenance man found her body on a sidewalk.
the trial began last week, Crawley's attorney said Smith's fiance,
Jermeir Stroud, was the killer, calling him manipulative and
controlling and saying Crawley followed him out of fear.
Stroud, a Greensboro police officer, testified that he dated both
women at the same time but broke up with Crawley shortly after she
became pregnant and had an abortion. Smith never knew about his
other relationship, but Crawley did, he said.
Prosecutors have argued that Crawley stalked Smith in a jealous
rage because she had a previous relationship with Stroud.
During her police interview four months after her arrest, Crawley
told investigators that Stroud didn't want her to have an abortion
and even asked her to marry him. He became despondent after she
rejected him, and he tried to commit suicide, she said.
Crawley, a former Guilford Metro 911 dispatcher, told police that
Stroud would repeatedly call her at work and stare at her in the
hallway. She was so fearful of him that she bought a gun but then
threw it away because she was afraid to have it around, she said.
The day before Smith was killed, she said, Stroud forced her to
drive to Durham, and they returned the following day. On the
second trip, she said, he got out at an apartment complex and was
gone for several minutes before returning, ordering her to get
into the driver's seat of an SUV and hiding in the back.
Crawley told investigators that Stroud had forced her to go places
with him before. On the day Smith was killed, she said, he told
her he would kill her children if she didn't go with him.
"He said, 'Either your children die, or you die for your
children,'" she said in the videotaped interview.
Her fear prevented her from contacting police before her arrest,
”I’d do absolutely anything for them.
I’d protect them at any cost. He knew that," she said.
“I don’t know what I did to make him do this to me. I don’t what
she did that he thinks was so horrible that he had to kill her. I
don’t know. All I know is I didn’t do anything to her,” Crawley
"I didn't know her. I didn't know
where she lived. I didn't know anything about her," she said.
After jurors finished watching the tape, Crawley's attorney, Scott
Holmes, grilled Shawn Pace, an investigator with the Durham Police
Department, about why Stroud was never a suspect in Smith's death.
"Is it fair to say, in your investigation, other than his word he
didn’t do it, (that Stroud) did not have a hard alibi that made it
impossible for him to have done this?" Holmes asked.
"I cannot (agree) nor disagree,” Pate responded, adding that
police never searched Stroud's car or home.
Accused murderer says she was
Friday, February 12, 2010
DURHAM (WTVD) --
Testimony continued Friday in the shooting death of Denita Smith -
a NC Central student found shot to death outside her apartment in
Smith's accused murderer, Shannon Crawley, says
Smith's fiancé set her up.
The prosecution tried
to establish Friday that Crawley had time to commit the murder,
while defense attorneys made it clear she was afraid of the
Crawley's former supervisor
recalled on the stand how Crawley arrived at work three hours late
the day Smith was shot to death.
former Greensboro 911 dispatcher, was soon after determined to be
the primary suspect.
She turned to her
supervisors for help, blaming the victim's fiancé Jermeir Stroud -
a Greensboro police officer.
Stroud has admitted
to dating both women at the same time, saying he ended his
relationship with Crawley after a terminated pregnancy.
It was a rocky relationship Crawley's former co-worker said she
often talked about.
On the stand, he told the
jury how he sold Crawley a gun to ease her fears over Stroud or
another intruder breaking into her home.
encouragement for her to get a gun was not for this specific
issue, but she'd been broken into several times at her home that
was my encouragement for her," witness Ronald Simpson said.
Simpson also said he taught Crawley how to use the gun, but the
defense insisted she was afraid of weapons.
Testimony in the case will continue on Monday.
Trial continues in NCCU
Thursday, February 11, 2010
DURHAM (WTVD) -- Testimony continued Thursday in the shooting
death of a NC Central student named Denita Smith.
Smith's fiancé, a Greensboro police officer, took the stand
Thursday admitting that he was having an affair with the accused
murderer Shannon Crawley, but he denied that he had killed his
Denita Smith was found shot to death
outside her apartment in January 2007.
Jermeir Stroud - Smith's fiancé - says he went to work and then
He admits embarrassment over dating both
women at the same time, but says he's no killer.
Stroud told the jury he was suspicious of Crawley after learning
police were looking for someone driving a vehicle similar to her
SUV. So he called Durham investigator Jack Cates.
"He said do you have a crazy ex-girlfriend," Stroud said, "Someone
who'd want to do something like this? I said, yes."
In an attempt to discredit Stroud, Crawley's attorneys pointed to
police notes that suggested that conversation went another way.
"According to his handwritten notes he says Stroud said no to his
first question," Cates said. "Then when he asked whether he knew
anyone matching the vehicle, he said yes."
now, the case is focused on the embattled fiancé, a Greensboro
police officer who describes his relationship with Crawley as
friendship that turned sexual.
Crawley never recovered emotionally from a terminated pregnancy
months before the murder.
She accused him of
rape, more than a year after Smith's death, another claim he
It's a love triangle that left
investigators with some doubts.
particular time we didn't know if he was involved or not, we
didn't want to tip our hand," Cates said. "We didn't know his
No testimony has linked Crawley to
the crime scene.
A maintenance worker recalls
hearing what sounded like gun shots and then seeing woman crying
hysterically, but failed to identify Crawley. The worker testified
to only seeing an unidentified woman inside her car that morning.
The defense contends Stroud is the real killer, jumping into his
lover's SUV after the shooting and hiding in the back seat.
The trial will continue Friday.
Suspect in NCCU student's death blames
Bond Set for Suspect in NCCU
February 10, 2010
Durham, N.C. — A Greensboro
police officer killed a North Carolina Central University graduate
student more than three years ago, the attorney for the woman
accused of the crime said Wednesday as her trial began.
Shannon Elizabeth Crawley, 28, of Greensboro, is charged with
murder in the Jan. 4, 2007, shooting death of Denita Monique
Smith, 25, was shot in the head at Campus
Crossing Apartments in Durham and fell down a stairwell to the
sidewalk, where a maintenance man found her body, police said.
Police arrested Crawley, a dispatcher for Guilford Metro 911 in
Greensboro, five days later.
Durham County Chief
Assistant District Attorney David Saacks said in his opening
statement that Crawley had a previous relationship with Jermeir
Stroud, a Greensboro police officer engaged to Smith, and that she
wouldn't let go.
Crawley drove to Smith's
apartment complex the day before the shooting to scout it out and
then returned early the next morning, where she ambushed Smith and
shot her in the back of the head, Saacks told jurors.
The maintenance man saw Crawley pulling out of the complex parking
lot after the shooting and said she was crying, Saacks said.
Defense attorney Scott Holmes put the same scene in a different
light during his opening statement. He said Crawley feared for her
safety around Stroud, whom he called manipulative and controlling.
Stroud and Crawley drove together to Durham the day before Smith
was killed so they could discuss their relationship, Holmes said.
The pair returned to the apartment complex the next morning, and
Crawley heard Stroud arguing with someone as she sat in the SUV,
the attorney told jurors.
After Crawley heard a
gunshot, Stroud ran back to the SUV and jumped in the back, Holmes
said. He was hiding there when the maintenance man stopped Crawley
to ask about the gunshot, Holmes said.
Court Judge Ronald Stephens ruled Wednesday that Crawley's
statements to police that she had an abortion before she and
Stroud broke up and her claim that he raped her more than a year
after Smith's death may be admitted as evidence in the trial.
Woman Arrested in Shooting Death of NCCU
By Julia Lewis and Sloane Heffernan
January 9, 2007
Durham, N.C. — Durham police Tuesday arrested a 911 dispatcher in
Greensboro in connection with last week's shooting death of a
North Carolina Central University student.
Shannon Elizabeth Crawley, 27, was arrested Tuesday evening in the
slaying of Denita Monique Smith, 25.
graduate student from Charlotte, was shot inside a stairwell of
the Campus Crossing Apartments last Thursday morning and then fell
down several steps to the sidewalk.
maintenance worker at the apartment complex found her body at
about 10:15 a.m. Police had responded to an earlier call for shots
fired at approximately 8:30 a.m., but found nothing at that time.
Police said witnesses saw a woman driving away from the apartment
complex in a burgundy Ford Explorer less than two hours before
Smith's body was found.
According to Guliford
Metro 911 officials, the department hired Crawley in 2000. She was
suspended after being named a person of interest on Saturday in
Smith's murder, the department said in a written statement issued
Sources tell WRAL that Crawley
was arrested at about 7 p.m. Clad in handcuffs and shackles, she
was led into the Durham County Jail late Tuesday evening.
Police have refused to discuss any possible motives, but said that
Smith's death did not appear to be a random act of violence.
Detectives spent the last five days interviewing more than a dozen
people, including Smith's family members, friends and neighbors.
Investigators also spent several hours Friday interviewing someone
they had identified only as a person of interest in the case. It's
unknown whether Crawley was the person interviewed.
WRAL first learned on Monday evening that investigators were
focusing their attention in Greensboro. It was not immediately
clear why because Durham police would not comment.
In response to the shooting, the Durham Police Department will
conduct a Project Safe Neighborhoods Community Response on
Wednesday. It is a strategy utilized for violent incidents or
crimes likely to have a retaliation effect among those involved.
The response consists of a door-to-door canvassing of the
neighborhood where the crime occurred and where the victim live.
Smith received a bachelor's degree in English from N.C. Central
and had planned to wrap up her thesis this semester. She was
engaged to a Greensboro police officer.
funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at University Park
Baptist Church in Charlotte.
In a written
statement, N.C. Central Chancellor James H. Ammons said: "What
happened to Denita was unconscionable. She was an outstanding and
promising young student whose life has been cut short. The arrest
of a suspect will help us to begin the process of healing."